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BEING HUMAN - HOW DO YOU WRITE IT?

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Garret Keogh, Online Editor | 16:04 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

 

Writersroom.JPG

New to BH? This post does not contain spoilers, but the comments might...

 

We all know the story...  Armed only with a laptop, a good idea and a serious ability to concentrate, Toby Whithouse managed to create the drama we all know and love - Being Human. 

 

But surely it's more complicated than that, right?  Well, to give us more of an insight into Toby's mind, and shed light on his life as a writer, the BBC's Writersroom has spoken to the man himself for a fantastic in-depth interview.

 

We've selected a couple of juicy chunks to get you started... 

 

You started out as an actor. What made you decide to become a writer?

Being an actor I had a lot of spare time on my hands and so I just started to write. I had an idea, literally just an idea for a gag. So I wrote it down. Then I thought, well if somebody says that then you need the feed line into it, and then somebody would say that afterwards. And it expanded in both directions until characters started to take shape, and these two people who were talking suddenly became brothers, and they were in a café. And it built up from there until eventually I had the first draft of a play.

The plan was that I put it on myself in some little sticky-carpet pub theatre with my other unemployed actor friends, but it took on a life of its own. I got a literary agent from it. We entered it for the Verity Bargate which it won, and suddenly they could get much better actors than me in it, and that was that.

On the basis of that I started being offered TV work, and then one thing led to another and now I'm talking to you.

 

How did you come to develop Being Human?

Touchpaper, which is an independent TV company, approached me and said "We want to do a flat share drama about a group of friends from university who buy a house together and the stresses and strains it puts on their relationship." And I thought that's probably the dullest idea for a story I've ever heard. I was actually on the verge of turning it down. And then I remember walking home one night, and the ideas for three characters just fell into place, fully formed.

So I wrote pages and pages of biogs for these characters, and we spent nearly a year developing this version of the show and got absolutely nowhere. And decided to have one last meeting and if nothing came of that then we would just call it a day. And about half way through the meeting I said "Well of course we could turn George into a werewolf." And then we decided if he's a werewolf then Mitchell should be a vampire and Annie should be a ghost.

So we started to develop that and suddenly we were going off in a completely different direction. I wrote a version of the show which was essentially just a sitcom, and the characters were much further advanced in terms of how they'd assimilated into society. George had his own little company, Mitchell worked in a call centre, Annie had a job in an office, even though they were a werewolf, a vampire, and dead. I did loads and loads of drafts of it, and then the BBC read it and they had some thoughts and we had some thoughts and so on, and we decided to just completely start again from scratch.

And this time I thought, rather than write it as a sitcom I'm going to pretend I'm writing a low-budget American independent film. Then we got this call from the BBC saying hey, we're going to do a series of pilots. Do you want it to be in that? And I said not really. But it was either that or it doesn't get made so we went into the series of pilots and then all hell broke loose.

 

Read the full interview at the BBC's Writersroom.

 

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Yay thanks Mr P :-)

  • Comment number 2.

    thanks for the little bit of insight mr p

  • Comment number 3.

    im kinda glad that im not the only one who writes that way - the first thing i ever wrote was a sitcom pilot and it all started from one line...one of the lines that eventually got cut out anyway lol but yeah didnt realise that someone else did it like that - good to know :-)

    Hank Azaria's on Paul O Grady on +1 :-) brilliant man with just a ridiculous amount of talent :-)

  • Comment number 4.

    Thanks team::

    I am so glad that Toby ditched the original idea..it would have been so ordinary. The whole thing stems from Toby saying "We could turn George into a werewolf" Don't know what that says about how his mind works....a bit worrying, really.....but I am so glad it does work that way!!

    Once again, thanks

  • Comment number 5.

    "Somebody pointed out to me that actually George and Mitchell are basically two halves of my personality. That theres half of me thats very kind of punctilious and house-proud and romantic and wussy. And theres another half that isnt. And kills people."

    lol thing is thats exactly the discussion i was having the other day...minus the kills people comment which made me laugh :-)

    but this is worrying me...
    "With Series One what we tried to do was to cram all of the different genres and all of the different tones into each episode. And I think that was a bit of a mistake. Instead I think its more a question of having an episode thats quite a comic episode, and then an episode thats quite scary"

    :-( one of the main things i loved so much about the show was that it got the right balance - episode 6 for example - the scene with herrick and george in the canteen i was laughing my head off then next scene with mitchell/josie i was crying like a baby lol im not sure im liking the sound of kinda splitting it having some funny episodes some dark episodes...but hey i guess toby knows what hes doing...
    trust the genius :-) although i will 100% be saying i told you so if i dont like it lol...you know, no pressure or anything.


    trouble is with reading stuff like this is it really makes me want to start writing again but i dont have the time when i get started on somthing i tend to dissapear and not come out the house for a fortnight lol which i cant really do anymore :-(

  • Comment number 6.

    Ohh that was ace, thanks for that, and the link to the whole interview. It's really interesting to read about how writers actually write. I'd love to be a writer, really just started writing a few stories in the last couple of years. I go through periods where I'm really inspired and I write tonnes then I have dry periods when I don't do a thing. Usually the thing that will bring me in to a writing frame of mind is just a line of dialogue or a character quirk that just seems to jump in to my mind and off I'll go. Today I started writing a bit of BH fanfic, doubt it'll ever see the light of day, but I suppose the point is that I enjoyed doing it. However rubbish it may be.

  • Comment number 7.

    Is the information that fills in the blanks available?
    For example my vision of trying to start an enviromental technologies
    business (98) and stuff like the broken limb, co-op job in europe
    during 9/11, already famous, (I dazzle like movie "21") that obtained
    this position.

    Hey I control the interest rate. I did put the oil to $147, then $40,
    not $200 -it was a choice I made.

    Kristina Brooker (126 395 086)

    -functions are shapes, what do the shapes say to do for safety.
    -I don't understand talking that way.
    -takes a year or two, maybe less with the computer.

    What to expect?
    -an engineer (99386493 - U of Waterloo) would say...
    The graph of the fuctions indicates all expectations.

  • Comment number 8.

    erm ok...random lol

    and bunnybiter stick the fanfic on the forum :-) we're always glad of a read whether or not you think its any good :-) but im sure it is :-)


    ok back to the land of the living again...rargh just cant tear myself away lol really going again though :-)

  • Comment number 9.

    i didnt even see the link before what am i like

  • Comment number 10.

    russell russell russell bbc3 :-D :-D :-D

    have abandoned real life real people and real man dont care that i have the dvd Russells on the telly :-D lol oh and no ive no been drinking honestly only a bit ahhhhhhhhhhhh hes lovely isnt he lol

  • Comment number 11.

    How did I not notice this earlier. :P

    Yay writery stuff. I love writery stuff. Being a writer myself it's great to have an insight into the minds of profession writers. :)

    Thankyou!

  • Comment number 12.

    glad you finally posted this although i did read it two weeks ago!

    ..Am I becoming the ultimate Toby stalker? Actually in this case no, I just happened to get emailed about it by the writersroom cos I -being an 'aspiring-writer' with little in writing other than that self-appointed title to back me up- am subscribed to their newslettery thingies.

  • Comment number 13.

    Bex, you can subscribe to their newslettery thingies? How?

  • Comment number 14.

    "As they described it they had this look, like everything they do in between is just a sleepwalk, and it's only for those few moments that they are totally and truly alive, and there's a part of me that would give anything to feel what they did, to taste what they tasted...and that's the worst thing"

    What a cracking line I love that bit :-)

    Cant believe how quiet everywhere is - I dissappear into the real world for a couple of days - come back and everywheres deserted :-(

  • Comment number 15.

    Ooh little bit of info for you - Aidan used to work in a cinema apparently lol wahey so I'm not automatically doomed then that's good to know :-)

    Totally agree with him - never eat the hot dogs - seriously - bad idea :-S lol

    Oh and yes I am procrastinating from the packing again - I really do have far too much junk

  • Comment number 16.

    "we went into the series of pilots and then all hell broke loose."
    Well, Mr Whithouse, that must be the understatement of the year I think!!

  • Comment number 17.

    lol its always nice to feel like the fans actually played a part in getting a brilliant show commissioned - cant believe they ever even considered just letting it go...

    By the way I know everyone's looking forward to Aidans new show but has everyone heard about Russells? Hes doing a sitcom - YAY! lol maybe I can finally stop all the nagging of "please do more comedy you're hilarious" every 5 minutes :-)

    To be honest with you, having read a bit about it, it doesnt sound overly impressive - good but nothing special - but then knowing Russell and how he is - his expressions and the intonation the WAY he says things rather than whats actually said - I'm pretty sure he'd crack me up if he sat reading the yellow pages :-)
    It would've been something I'd have watched anyway - I tend to give any new comedy a chance regardless of what I read about it but Im in no doubt that Russell will make it great :-) Well I hope so...I hope they let him - let him do what he does best :-D

    Cant wait - the pilot is meant to air late this year so wow that, desperate romantics and the new series of BH to look forward to! I know you're not meant to wish your life away but...:-)

    Oh and its being made by the same production company that did spaced...and you know my feelings about that lol but hey whether i liked it or not I guess if Russell can become as big as Simon Pegg then it cant be bad :-) he deserves it - doesnt strike me as a diva lol well I hope not :-)


    Righto waffle over...will go and pack now I promise...maybe lol

  • Comment number 18.

    Ok just did one more quick little snoop (its a slow news day lol) and apparently (being the key word!!) hes been spotted on dr who set? it was dated 29th april 09...Ok so cant really say a lot - no idea what character he played last time i never saw that episode :-( although i do know i saw a rather nice picture of him in uniform :-) but yeah was the scope for him to come back they said he was "in uniform" so...?

    Hmm help me out her dr who fans...

    Or does everyone know hes in another episode and this isnt news at all? Ive been in the real world for a few days ive fallen behind lol

  • Comment number 19.

    Ok I should really look into these things a bit more before I post shouldnt I lol yes hes in another episode as the same character as last time and its been announced and everything we werent being at all clever but still...yay :-)

  • Comment number 20.

    Really!? Eagle state your sources!

    He played Midshipman Alonzo Frame. And he did look great in his uniform. =)

  • Comment number 21.

    theres a website called planet gallifrey where it says so.

    here is the link
    https://www.planetgallifrey.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 22.

    i meant to add where you can see for yourself. Still no big question, i am highly disappointed.

  • Comment number 23.

    i saw it on someones blog that theyd seen him but then i went on his imdb and its on there anyway :-) so finally i get to see him in that uniform :-D

  • Comment number 24.

    You can see him in uniform in the episode from before. Voyage of the Damned. :P They're being repeated at the moment so it shouldn't be too long before it comes 'round again.

  • Comment number 25.

    Any idea when its on? Wasnt it a christmas special though? Will they repeat that as well...

  • Comment number 26.

    I love Midshipman Frame, I spent ages looking for a little figurine of him but they don't do one :0(
    Russell T Davies wanted to kill him off at the end of series 4 'I really wanted that to hurt' (the writer's tale), I really hope he stays alive because I want him to stay on my tv screen.

    I'm a bit of a dumbass, what's Aiden's new show? I know about Russell's (think it looks quite good). Lenora's also doing a new show, Material Girl later this year.

  • Comment number 27.

    argh well i just wrote you lots about Aidans new show and the internet crashed - Brilliant

    ugh well hes doing desperate romantics - its about the pre raphelites hes playing rossetti hence the hair and sideburns which means he'll most probably be getting his kit off quite a bit lol rossetti wasnt exactly known for being a good boy :-)

    there are a few pictures online but apparently the crew are a bit shirty lol i guess they dont want too much getting out but i would have thought publicity is publicity at the end of the day but hey what do i know :-S

    its supposed to air end of this year/beginning of next - yay :-)

    oh and if you get a chance read the franny moyle book its good - well i thought so but im kinda into all that lol

  • Comment number 28.

    Yeah they repeat the specials too. :P They're on season three at the moment. I think they had gridlock this week so it might be a while. :/ But it will come soon enough.

  • Comment number 29.

    eagleeyes just two more days and i will be back in action on the forum.

    ciera i dont remember how but im sure if you go on writersroom they'll have a subscribe to newsletter thing somehwere.. or just google it.

  • Comment number 30.

    Don't worry. I found it. :P Thanks anyway. :)

  • Comment number 31.

    good good bex - think ive done a pretty good job holding the fort though :-) we reached 10,000 posts yesterday :-) i thought that was quite impressive

    Christ its been a rough night :-(

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi everyone, sorry not been around much.....tinterweb box problems

    eagle (27) This thing about getting his kit off.....is that an absolute promise!!! I am a woman on the edge and must not have my hopes built up without good reason....lets face it I would watch him if he wore a bin bag. But if I don't see any flesh, I'll hold you responsible for getting my hormones back into line.

  • Comment number 33.

    Lol vf well obviously I've not seen the script but KI'm just saying that knowing Rossetti its a definate possibility. But should be good program even if he keeps his clothes on - and I really like the hat - all the photos I've seen of them filming hes had a hat on and it suits him - he definately has a hat face lol im quite jealous - I really don't :-S

    I'm really looking forward to it :-) again its one of those things I probably would've watched anyway and Aidan is the added bonus lol

  • Comment number 34.

    why does russell play so many gay characters? I know hes gay but he doesnt act it...or maybe i just have very bad gaydar lol sorry - again procrastinating on imdb :-S

    just found it a bit strange i guess


    how is everyone today everyone off having those "life" things?

  • Comment number 35.

    Christ ive been on the writersroom site plenty of times to read interviews/scripts etc but just went on thte blog for the first time and yikes! they're all professional and good and know what they're talking about lol - very scary. Ok definately not sending the script now :-S that site always makes for an interesting read though :-)

    Righto - Friday tomorrow - Big question time? Hope so :-)

  • Comment number 36.

    Righto so I'm the only one here anymore then :-S oh well no need for a big question just for me lol ahh roll on series 2...

  • Comment number 37.

    I still check here Eagle. Have you forgotten that I used to be a lurker? It's quite hard to get out of the habit you know.

  • Comment number 38.

    everyones leaving now...would hate for mr p to be out of a job though lol

    unfortunately though no matter how good BH is - theres only so long that a group of people can talk about 6 hours of telly :-(

  • Comment number 39.

    Not meaning to be rude, because i think you have made this website as awesome as it can be, but i think we are i need of a new question, some BH videos, and some series 2 gossip, and fast, because i am having blood withdrawal symptoms..

  • Comment number 40.

    i may have to start pricking myself with pins in order to get it...

  • Comment number 41.

    lol i agree - are people not coming on because there isnt as much here anymore or isnt there as much because people arent coming on as much...

  • Comment number 42.

    Hello, yes i think that what we need are more questions. We love all the vids that you guys treat us with but personnally i like to talk and speculate. How about some tip bits from series 2? If you dangle the carrott just watch everyone flood back!

  • Comment number 43.

    *drools over the idea of tip bits from series 2*

  • Comment number 44.

    I also think we are getting busier. and that means we are distracted from the wonderful world of BH. When the show is on, it's different because you always want to look for spoiler videos, but when the shows not on, after a while, you get a bit bored (not that i have. Found this experience on another show)

 

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